The BCCI has announced the much-anticipated groups for the Ranji Trophy 2021-22 season, which will start on January 5 next year. The blue-riband championship couldn't go ahead in 2020 due to the logistical challenges thrown up by the pandemic.
This year, heavyweights Mumbai, Delhi and Karnataka find themselves clubbed together in Elite Group C, setting up an exhilarating battle between the three most successful teams in the tournament. They will have Hyderabad, Maharashtra and Uttrakhand for company.
Defending Ranji Trophy champions Saurashtra are in a relatively easy lot. They will be joined by Railways, Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir, Goa and Jharkhand in Elite Group D. Meanwhile, the 2019-20 runners-up, Bengal, will lead Elite Group B with Vidarbha, Haryana, Kerala, Tripura and Rajashtan alongside them.
Elite Group A comprises Punjab, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Services and Assam. Elite Group E includes Andhra, Uttar Pradesh, Baroda, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Pondicherry. Chandigarh, Meghalaya, Bihar, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh will make up the Plate Group.
The winners of each Elite group will make it directly to the quarterfinals. The second-placed team from each Elite group will vie with the winner of the Plate group in the pre-quarterfinals to choose three winners for the last eight.
Kolkata to host Ranji Trophy 2021-22 final
Kolkata's famed Eden Gardens will host all the Ranji Trophy knockout matches, including the final from March 16. Kolkata will also host the Elite B matches. Five other cities will host the other matches - Mumbai (Elite A), Bengaluru (Elite C), Ahmedabad (Elite D), Thiruvananthapuram (Elite E) and Chennai (Plate).
News agency ANI recently reported that each squad for the Ranji Trophy will comprise a maximum of 30 members. Of this, there will have to be a minimum of 20 players and the rest will be support staff. The support staff will also include a team physician to manage COVID-19 related issues.